Samoans could pay anywhere from $1 to $4.16 per kilogram

Samoans will have to start paying a hefty fee to fly on Samoa Air if they're overweight.

Samoa Air is the first airline to make customers pay as much as they weigh when flying on the airline. For overweight customers, this could mean big charges.

"This is the fairest way of travelling," said Chris Langton, chief executive of Samoa Air. "There are no extra fees in terms of excess baggage or anything – it is just a kilo is a kilo is a kilo."

Customers will have to start typing in their weight when purchasing Samoa Air tickets online, and pay anywhere from about $1 to about $4.16 per kilogram (depending on whether they're traveling short domestic routes or between Samoa and American Samoa).

Once arriving at the airport, the customers are weighed again to make sure they didn't lie online.

Why is Samoa Air doing this? According to Langton, it's partially meant to raise awareness of obesity and health, since Samoa is often in the top 10 lists for obesity.

"When you get into the Pacific, standard weight is substantially higher [than south-east Asia]," said Langton. "That's a health issue in some areas. [This payment system] has raised the awareness of weight."

The payment by weight system will have other benefits, such as safety measures where a plane can only handle so many overweight customers (larger passengers have to be evenly distributed on the plane for safety); families with young children could pay much less than what they're paying now, and carriers could gain the money lost on fuel for carrying heavier passengers.

It's not unfair, it's stupid. The larger the plane the more idiotic this type of system is. Even in the case of small planes if the weight isn't properly distributed the fuel savings are zero. Samoa Air happens to fly some very small planes so they might actually benefit from this but typical passenger planes in the U.S. will not.

A far better solution would be to charge based on the weight of bags and kill all carry-ons. The airline can position the bags exactly where they need to be for maximum efficiency, cut down on the time it takes to enter and exit the plane, more accurately estimate necessary fuel by weighing all bags, and fairly price customers for the amount of weight they're actually bringing onto the plane.

This would actually be a cost saving measure as opposed to a revenue measure as customers would think twice about bringing so much crap. You can't decide to shed 15 pounds of fat to save money the day before you travel but you CAN decide to shed 15 pounds of crap from your luggage.

Of course every aircraft needs to have a properly-distributed load. It's part of the preflight procedure.

And yes, a heavier person will cost more to transport than a light one. Not much of a difference, but there's a difference.

To me the biggest hassle with fatties is that they take over MY seat as well as theirs. I think it's perfectly fair to charge them and give them two seats, and then everybody around them is happy.

...I have to assume you're horrendously fat to try to make the comments you just made.

Charging by weight is, in actual fact, the one-and-only system that makes any sense at all if you're looking for any kind of honesty in your pricing model.

Weight is the one-and-only factor that drives the cost-to-serve for an airline. It makes 100% sense to charge a 300-pound person twice as much as a 150-pound person. Because it literally - LITERALLY - costs the airline twice as much to provide the service to that person.

The same applies to luggage...which is why, to date, airlines have charged overage fees if your luggage is over a certain weight. In a perfect system, they'd weigh your luggage too and charge for that based on actual weight.

A 200 pound person traveling with 4 50-pound bags (400 pounds total) should absolutely be paying twice as much, overall, than a 150 pound person with one 50-pound bag (200 pounds total).

Period. There's not, in fact, any reality-based way to dispute this fact.

quote: Because it literally - LITERALLY - costs the airline twice as much to provide the service to that person.

Except that it literally doesn't. This would only be true if the plane didn't weigh anything and there were no fixed costs per aircraft(purchase cost), per flight (maintainance and crew salaries) or per person (ticketing and processing costs, and I would argue any complementary drink/snack costs though those might also increase based on weight IF that person's weight is due to over eating).

Looking at the Boeing 767-400, operating empty weight is 229,000lbs and max take off weight is 450,000lbs giving about 220,000lbs of cargo and passenger weight.So the actual percentage increase in fuel costs if you double passenger weight, assuming fuel costs are linear with weight ( it isn't, 1% reduction in weight only gets you a 0.75% reduction in fuel use), is ((450,000/(229,000+110,000))-1)*100= 33%. That doesn't hold for flights limited by weight but for larger jet aircraft I have never seen a weight limited situation.

I would personally go for some other function of weight for charging people, like weight^(1/2) or weight to some power >0 and <1. For luggage though I would charge per pound since customers could game the system by consolidating bags if the system for people were used.

quote: Looking at the Boeing 767-400, operating empty weight is 229,000lbs and max take off weight is 450,000lbs giving about 220,000lbs of cargo and passenger weight.So the actual percentage increase in fuel costs if you double passenger weight, assuming fuel costs are linear with weight ( it isn't, 1% reduction in weight only gets you a 0.75% reduction in fuel use), is ((450,000/(229,000+110,000))-1)*100= 33%.

You're distributing the cost of the plane's weight on a per person basis. That's arguably the wrong way to do it.

Say I put two pallets aboard a cargo plane. One is a tank weighing 70 tons. The other is an overnight envelope. After you subtract out the cost of the fuel needed to fly the weight of the cargo, are you seriously going to suggest that half of the cost to fly the plane itself should be attributed to the envelope, and half to the tank?

It makes more sense to distribute the cost of the plane's weight on a per pound of payload basis. Your 767 has a maximum payload of 220,000. The 300 pound person consumes 0.136% of that. The 150 pound person takes 0.068% of that. And they should pay accordingly.

quote: It makes more sense to distribute the cost of the plane's weight on a per pound of payload basis. Your 767 has a maximum payload of 220,000. The 300 pound person consumes 0.136% of that. The 150 pound person takes 0.068% of that. And they should pay accordingly.

That fraction covers the cost of the cargo/person, but then who pays for the fuel it costs to actually lift the plane itself?

To be perfectly fair and cover operating costs there needs to be a base price with a weight modifier. Totally fictional numbers here for an example: say it costs $5,000 to operate the flight if it were void of any passengers or luggage. If it will carry 100 passengers then the base price will be $50 per passenger. Then to cover any fuel costs over that of the empty plane plus crew figure what that is per pound and charge every passenger that charge per pound for them and their luggage. If a ten year old weighs 60 pounds and has no luggage and an adult weighs 180 pounds and has 60 pounds of luggage then their surcharge is four times that of the child's. Add the weight surcharge to the base and you have the price of the ticket. That is the fair way to do it.

Currently if you say that anyone over 300 pounds must pay a surcharge then that means that anyone at 299-300 pounds is getting the best bang for their buck on ticket price, while a 90 pound girl is getting a terrible deal as she is paying much more per pound for her ticket.

You've got a 220,000 pound cargo capacity - I'll assume for the sake of argument that that's a correct value.

Now, look at the cost to operate the plane with no luggage and no passengers. I'm going to make some stuff up here - let's say it costs $10,000 to fly the plane empty for a 1,000 mile trip.

Then, look at the cost to operate the plane at full capacity...let's say that costs $100,000 to make the same 1,000 mile trip.

There's $90,000 to allocate over 220,000 pounds. Roughly $0.41 per pound.

So, if you weighed 200 pounds your apportioned cost from that flight is $82. If you weighed 300 pounds, it'd be $123. Which, coincidentally is 50% more cost for 50% more weight. Likewise, if you weighed 100 pounds your cost would be $41 - half the weight for half the cost.

As noted those numbers are all made up, the the point is valid. There's a predictable, fixed cost to transport stuff by weight. Figure out what that cost is, and apportion it fairly.

Cebu Pacific (A domestic airline in Philippines) uses the model you suggest with a few modifications

They offer GoLite fares(no baggage allowance) Go fares (15kg baggage allowance) 20kg & 30kg prepaid baggage allowance P150 per kg baggage charge at checkin for anything in excess of the Go fare allowance+prepaid baggage allowance.

I got dinged by this one last year ... I bought the 30kg allowance & a GoLite ticket and my bags weighed in at 31.5kg for an excess baggage charge of P150 paid at checkin. The return flight with a 20kg prepaid allowance and 19kg of baggage netted no extra cost at checkin.

They also have eliminated the free onboard snacks and drinks. When the food cart comes out it you are charged for what you take. The mango pulpy drink was P20, but tasted good :)